L.A. Charges Sent in Error to Weho Residents; Blame It on ZIP Codes, Official Says

West Hollywood's lack of a unique ZIP code means its residents are being billed for sewer charges, business license taxes by the city of L.A., says Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang.

West Hollywood residents can ignore recently received bills from the city of Los Angeles for sewer charges and business license taxes.

“There’s no need to pay them,” Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang told Weho Patch. “It was an error by the city of Los Angeles.” Any resident who paid those bills should contact the city to request a refund, he added.

The errors occur periodically. Prang attributed the problem to the fact that West Hollywood does not have its own unique ZIP code. Instead, it has five, with the primary ZIP codes being 90069 and 90046, plus parts of 90036, 90038 and 90048.

Prang said the city of Los Angeles' computers aren't always programmed to filter out West Hollywood addresses. Several times in the past, has provided Los Angeles with a list of the blocks that fall within West Hollywood city limits, but that information does not always make it into software updates or computer upgrades, he said.

“If you’re a legal West Hollywood resident, you’re not required to pay any bills that come to you from the city of Los Angeles,” Prang said. He said West Hollywood sewer charges come on property tax bills, while business license taxes are sent separately.

The one exception is water bills.

“Since we do not have our own water department, we contract with Los Angeles and Beverly Hills for water,” Prang said, “so residents are required to pay those water bills.” Residents living east of La Cienega Boulevard get water bills from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; those living west of La Cienega get water bills from Beverly Hills.

Utility User Taxes

Prang also recommended that residents check their phone, cellphone, cable and other utility bills to be sure they are not being charged a Utility User Tax (UUT) for the city of Los Angeles. West Hollywood does not charge a UUT.

“Verizon and AT&T were charging residents Los Angeles UUTs on their cellphone bills,” Prang said. “We provided them the list of which blocks fall into our city limits. Verizon was able to make the change in their computers, but AT&T said they were incapable of amending their database.”  

He advised requesting a refund if you were charged the incorrect UUT.

The culprit behind those UUT snafus is again the lack of a unique West Hollywood ZIP code, Prang said. He mentioned that the city of Signal Hill, which is completely surrounded by Long Beach, had the same problem. After Signal Hill petitioned the Postal Service for its own ZIP code, the problem ended.

Getting a unique Weho ZIP code

West Hollywood has considered requesting its own ZIP code, but has been reluctant for two reasons, Prang said. First, 90069, which includes the Boystown area, carries a special affinity for LGBT residents. Second, businesses would have the expense of changing stationery, business cards and other materials to reflect a new ZIP code.

Prang said having a unique ZIP code is "a matter of civic pride."

“The post office will give Reseda its own ZIP code, but it’s not even a town. It’s just a part of Los Angeles,” Prang said. “But we’re a separate city and we don’t have it. As far as the post office is concerned, we’re L.A.”

ZIP codes are not to blame for all the billing problems, however. Often West Hollywood businesses will list their address as being Los Angeles, something that Prang calls a pet peeve of his. When he questions companies, they generally respond that Los Angeles is better known and more prestigious than Weho, he said.  

“West Hollywood isn’t a good enough address? Nobody in Beverly Hills calls themselves L.A. Nobody in Santa Monica calls themselves L.A. It’s a matter of civic pride,” he said.

Follow West Hollywood Patch on Twitter and Facebook for more updates, tips and news.

Jerome Cleary December 16, 2011 at 10:56 PM
the City of Los Angeles always conveniently sends out these bills by "mistake" hoping that other cities like West Hollywood will accidentally mail in checks and pay these bills so they can take in more money


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